Independence Day 2008
July 4, 2008
Today is the day that was set aside to celebrate the birth of our Nation. Many have no clue the history behind the Independence Day holiday and sadly many of our children don’t know the significance of the events that took place 232 years ago. The handful of men who took part in ensuring that our country, our people were free, were wealthy men. Men who were involved in politics, men who owned property. Yet they were men with a vision; a vision that one day, everyone living in the United States of America, would be able to live freely. Free from oppressive rule, free from fear and free to live their lives as they see fit, without someone telling them how they must live their lives. Their vision was one that applied to ALL Americans, not just those who were wealthy, owned property or were involved in politics.
When studying about the history of the United States, it’s amazing just how far our country has come since its infancy, 232 years ago. Now, instead of 13 Colonies, our country consists of 50 states as well as many US territories. The rights that our forefathers fought so valiantly for, most of us take for granted, without much thought to why we have those rights. Today, many of our fellow citizens, tend to take advantage of those rights, as well as take advantage of our fellow citizens, at the drop of a hat. Most of us rarely stop and think about why we live in freedom today and the cost that those brave soles 232 years ago paid, to ensure that future Americans could live without oppression. I would venture to guess that many of our fellow Americans don’t even know the words to the Declaration of Independence, let alone the names of the gentlemen who signed it. Many Americans don’t stop and think about the men and women, who have served our country in it’s military, over the years, to ensure that we would be able to remain living in freedom; today and always.
232 years ago, the United States consisted of 13 colonies which were under the rule of England’s King George III. Over the years, there was increasing unrest among the citizens of the colonies about the taxes that they had to pay to England. That taxation was commonly referred to as “Taxation without Representation” as the colonists had no representation in the English parliament. They also didn’t have a say in what occurred. The parliament could decide to raise their taxes or impose any other rules upon them, without hearing their opinions. King George, aware of the growing unrest in the colonies, sent extra troops to control any rebellion that might arise. That didn’t stop the colonists from doing what they felt they needed to do. In 1774, each of the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia, Pa to form the very first Continental Congress. While the delegates were unhappy with England and what was going on, they weren’t quite ready to declare war.
In April 1775, things began to change as the King’s troops made their way to Concord Massachusetts. Paul Revere was standing watch and sounded the alarm, as he rode his horse through the streets shouting, “The British are coming, the British are coming!” The battle of Concord and the “shot heard round the world” marked the unofficial beginning of the war for Independence. In those days, there were no cars, planes, trains or trucks to carry that message and Mr. Revere had to spread that warning on horseback.
Once again, the following May, the colonies sent delegates to the Second continental Congress. For almost a year, the congress had been attempting to work through their differences with England. Again they attempted to do so, without formally declaring war.
By June 1776, the Continental Congress were beginning to see that their efforts were becoming futile. It was at that time that a committee was formed to compose a formal declaration of independence from England’s rule. This committee was headed by Thomas Jefferson and included other notable figures such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman. The committee chose Thomas Jefferson to compose the first draft, which was then presented to the congress on June 28th. Various changes were made and then a vote was taken, late on the afternoon of July 4, 1776. Of the 13 colonies that were represented in the Continental congress, 9 of them voted in favor of the Declaration, 2 of them, Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained from the vote.
To make the Declaration of Independence official, the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, signed the document. Stories passed down from that period, said that John Hancock signed his name “with a great flourish” so that King George could read it without spectacles. The next day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, was the first newspaper to print the document on July 6th, 1776. The first public reading of the Declaration was on July 8th in Philadelphia’s Independence Square. The document was read twice that day, to the sounds of cheering crowds and church bells pealing. The bell in Independence Hall, was even rung. That bell, the Province Bell would later be officially renamed “Liberty Bell” after this inscription “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.”
Below, is the entire text of the Declaration of Independence. Read these words carefully and really think about what these men were thinking about, as they signed this document. Think about the meaning of these words and their impact on citizens in the Coloniese 232 years ago, as well as their impact today.
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Pretty powerful words, huh? Words that have so much meaning, even today, 232 years later. Words that our Troops live by, as they sacrifice to ensure that others in our country can continue to enjoy those rights. Words that our Troops live by, as they sacrifice and fight, to share the gift of freedom with others less fortunate than ourselves. Today, as you relax with your family and friends, or as you attend the local fireworks displays and enjoy yourself, think about the ideals that those men and women are fighting and sacrificing for. Think about what they’re giving up, to ensure that you can continue to celebrate Independence Day the way you see fit. Be thankful for what they do, so that you don’t have to. Really think about the meaning of this Holiday.